Changing Your Child’s Undesirable Behaviour by Reinforcing Desired Behaviour

Probably, all parents, especially mothers have encountered undesirable behaviours coming from their children. We often scold them or make statements like, “next time, I won’t let you come to the grocery with me”, but to no avail.

Exhausted and feeling embarrassed, you just end up either going along with your child or take him home immediately. Of course, taking him home immediately still ends up in a furious battle with eardrum-breaking cries, shoes flying, and scratches on your face… At the end of the day, you’re stressed out and ready to drop.

So how do you change your child’s undesirable behavior?

Well, one of the most effective ways is by reinforcing an alternative desired behaviour.  Instead of punishing your child and focusing on the undesired behaviour, think about what you want your child to do instead. Then, when you realize what you want your child to do in a certain situation, you reinforce that.

Changing Your Child’s Undesirable Behaviour

Reinforcing Desired Behaviour: An Example

You are in a grocery store. Your children are playing and running around. Instead of scolding them outright, think of what you want them to do?

Of course what you want to do in this case is you want them to stop running and follow you, right?

Okay then, in such a situation, what you may want to do is to tell them something like this,

“Let’s play a game. Whoever follows mommy around without running and in proper line will win.”

After which, you can treat the winner and even the one who didn’t win. You may treat the winner to a 2-scoop ice cream, while the non-winner gets 1-scoop of ice cream, something like that. You may also reward the child with a toy or say, a movie of his choice.

Reinforcing your desired behaviour may not work the first time, but this will surely work on succeeding tries. And even if your first try failed, reward the child who played the game better. And the next time you are in a similar situation, remind them of the game and the reward. This way, they’ll be sure to do what you want to do without all the stressful, infuriating struggles.


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